The Q&A Archives: A New Vegetable Grower

Question: I would like to try to grow some corn, cantalope, blueberries, and strawberries but do not know where to begin. Do I need to start the seeds indoors? Could you tell my what products of yours to buy?

Answer: The first thing to do is to run some soil tests and amend your soil as needed to grow vegetables. Strawberries need a rich, acid soil with lots of organic matter worked in as well as perfect drainage. These are usually started as bare root plants and are planted out in early spring. These may not bear until the second year.

Blueberries absolutely require a very acid soil, again with lots of humus and excellent drainage. This are large bushes and are normally planted as bare-root shrubs, again in early spring. They may take a number of years before they bear a good crop of fruit.

Catalope again requires a very rich soil and does best in a warm sunny location with ample water. It can be started indoors about two weeks before transplanting (they get big very fast) but many gardeners simply plant the seeds in the garden. Be sure to allow plenty of room for these plants as the vines can get rather long.

Corn is normally planted in the ground too, usually in mid spring when the soil has warmed a bit (about 65 degrees several inches down). You will need to plant a rather large block of it to ensure that it pollinates enough to make ears. Allow enough room for rows about three feet apart with individual plants about ten inches apart within the row, and a block of at least 4 rows. Corn is a real space hog in the garden!

Your County Extension (345-3283) can help you with the soil tests and interpreting the results. They should also be able to suggest some varieties known to do especially well in your local soil and climate. Since you are so new to gardening you might also want to look at a book or two about gardening; the "Dummies" series offers some good ones and they are widely available. Enjoy your new garden!

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